Vote for Mirrors

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Mirrors is currently one of the finalists on the Free Galaktus 2017 competition. If we secure either the judges vote or the public’s vote we will receive a large a mount of support to help us advertise Mirrors throughout Europe. This is on top of opportunities to have Mirrors featured are gaming events.

So we need your help!

  1. If you could take 2 minutes of your time to go to this website: http://freegalaktus.pl/mirrors/ 
  2. Click the red “Vote for this Game” button. 
  3. Then scroll down to the bottom of the following page, tick the polish “I am not a robot” check box and click Vote.

Every single vote matters!

Thanks so much in advance. If you aren’t able to vote or you’re just plain awesome please go ahead and share this post and get your friends and family to vote too!

Rhys

Mirrors is now live on Steam!

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What was meant to be a quick game to design and develop, somehow turned into over a year, but we have finally reached the finish line and Mirrors is now live on Steam! Mirrors will be available for purchase as of 11th October 2017 from its Store Page located here.

Help Us

Although you can’t buy it right now, you can help us by following and adding Mirrors to your Steam wishlist anytime between now and it’s release. By following and wishlisting Mirrors, it will help get Mirrors into a better place for displaying it in the ‘new games’ category (among other benefits) which in turn will help us get more sales of Mirrors. So be awesome and go and follow / wishlist it here.

Hurdles in Development

There are a load of reasons why development time jumped from a few weeks to a few months to over a year.

Steam Greenlight

Depending on how you look at it we had a failed or successful Steam Greenlight campaign just before Steam Greenlight was stopped. It was a success purely because we got almost 50% more Yes votes than No votes, which is also a good thing. Sadly it was a failure because even with the difference in Yes votes to No votes, we still didn’t make it into the top 10% to actually get Greenlit. The only reason I can think of this is purely because, although Mirrors is a cool little game, I know it’s not going to be for everyone. Mirrors isn’t the first game that has a select audience and it definitely won’t be the last. Regardless of how good or bad Steam Greenlight went, Mirrors is on Steam now and that is the most important thing.

Additional / Contract Work

On top of Mirrors and some of the other games we’re working on, we also took on a fair bit of contract work including Soju Party and Storyboard, not to mention working on Deal Director and some of our other projects. Obviously when we were working on all of these other projects Mirrors unfortunately had to take a place at the back of the queue.

Reflections

The way in which the reflections work within Mirrors turned out to be far from simple and required a lot of tinkering to get it perfect. Before using our current setup we tried a variety of options but none seemed to work. Now after one of our programmers has spent a load of time perfecting the reflections code, it’s pretty much amazing though we know of one or two areas we would like to improve on.


Development and Redevelopment of the Level System

The level system within Mirrors has been developed about 4-5 times. The first few versions were OK but they were pretty basic and restricting, they almost made no sense in regards to the progression of the game. From there we moved into the adventure mode where you have multiple fictional locations within a dessert. Each location holds a number of levels and completing each location allows access to the next area. We also have an area for players to access custom made levels. It’s straight forward of course, but its simplicity is far better than the complex and not so useful versions we used originally.

 

The Future of Mirrors

Over the next few weeks and months, regardless of how well or popular Mirrors is or becomes, there are a few things we would like to add and iron out.

Fixing Bugs and Responding to Feedback

Based on feedback, we will be focusing on fixing bugs as they are found. We are confident that Mirrors is mostly bug free, but we’re not infallible and bugs can appear from nowhere. In addition to this we will be taking on board the opinions of the players and any issues that seem to be game breaking. Improving Mirrors benefits everyone. For this reason we look forward to getting as much feedback as possible as well as hearing your ideas.

Steam Achievements and Trading Cards

We will also be adding a range of Steam Achievements to Mirrors. We’ve done a lot of research and Steam Achievements seem to be a big selling point for games. Some of the achievements we have planned will be self explanatory but others will take time to execute such as hitting a mummy with an ice trap.

Adding Shadows

We are in the process of adding a really cool shadow system which will see the lighting from the previous tombs lighting up the current tomb. It’s really great as it casts a silhouette of the current assets around the tomb and makes our high quality graphics that much more impressive. This shouldn’t take too long to implement and we look forward to sharing it with you.

Adding additional Game Mode(s)

We have a lot of intentions to add a variety of extra modes and game play to Mirrors but these things will take time. We have the idea for implementing an Arcade Mode which will see you clearing as many tombs as possible within a set time limit. There is also the plans to implement a multiplayer mode where you can compete against other players to see who can clear tombs the quickest.

 

I look forward to and appreciate your support over the coming months.

As ever feel free to follow me on twitter.

Rhys

Could Mirrors be one of the last games through Steam Greenlight?

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Around a week ago we put Mirrors live on Steam Greenlight with the hope of getting greenlit before Valve press ALT+F4 on Steam Greenlight. If you haven’t read about Mirrors yet you can do so on its new updated page that can be found here.

Why are we bothering with Steam Greenlight?

We always intended to make Mirrors available on Steam, but with Valve announcing the scrapping of Steam Greenlight the clock began ticking and we needed to rush into it a little. As much as we would like to get Mirrors onto Steam, if we don’t get greenlit, it’s not the end of the world. We will look at other avenues of distributing Mirrors until such time that that Valve get Steam Direct up and running and we will see if that works for us.

Although we do have backup plans, in the meantime we would still love to get through the Steam Greenlight process if we can. So if you can go and vote for us and share this post to other gamers and that would be awesome!

Lower your expectations

 

Greenlight process so far.

Upon starting we got a pretty big influx of ‘No’ votes but we somewhat expected this as puzzle games aren’t exactly that popular compared to a lot of other genres that are available on Steam Greenlight. During this time we also got a nice number of ‘Yes’ votes, potentially more than we really anticipated. That was nice.

Currently we are getting a nice steady flow of ‘Yes’ votes and next to no ‘No’ votes each day. I think not being on the front page of Steam Greenlight anymore means we’re less inclined to attract people who aren’t interested.

We find this very interesting as Castaways was greenlit in under a month but received so much criticism. Mirrors is already over a week into the Greenlight process and although we’re receiving much less criticism, we’re also getting a steady amount of organic ‘Yes’ votes. Perhaps it’s something to do with the internal workings of Steam Greenlight. I suppose we will never know.

 

What we’re working on.

We’re already in the process of adding a few more awesome things to Mirrors. We have just completed a procedurally generated tomb flooring system which means each unique level with have its own unique flooring pattern. We’re also in the process of improving on how the user interacts with each of the various objects around the tombs.

Over the coming weeks we will be working on implementing the multiplayer version of Mirrors. This will allow two people to race through tombs to see who the better treasure hunter is. We are also in the process of tweaking how the existing modes work.

We are looking at adding a few additional mirrors such as a sliding mirror which has a fixed rotation but runs along a track. The objective would be to position this along the track where you would need the reflection.

There is also the addition of different shaped tombs instead of just the standard rectangle that we have shown you so far. We believe that by adding a variety of different shaped tombs will add the complexity and the creativity of the level design, whether it is us or you making the levels.

Mirrors has plenty of scope to constantly improve on where it is currently and we will continue to do so, but we would also love to hear your ideas. So if you have any suggestions how we can improve it or what we could add, please don’t hesitate to get in touch or leave a comment!

 

Additional Projects

Monocool Interactive always has a lot going on. To quote one of the artists we have 10 fingers in 20 twenty pies. How? We’re not quite sure. But it works. Plus we love pie.

Lower your expectations

We are in the process of developing a range of tutorials to help people get into game development. These will be free to use and will come in a mixture of difficulties. We will also be looking at providing feedback to answer any questions you might have along the way.
We’re also in the process of wrapping up some work for Cardiff University on their game Storyboard. Once done we will be looking to get additional work with either another client or focus on one of our own projects.

Finally we’ve been looking at a side project to do once Mirrors is finally live – regardless of what platform that may be. Obviously we wouldn’t be abandoning Mirrors and hoping for the best. We would continually develop it, but as mentioned, we love pie and we want more! We have a few ideas for what this next project will be and we’ll be looking more into these shortly. So stay tuned!

As always, if you got this far, thank you so much for your time. It really does mean a lot. If you have any comments or questions we would love to hear them.

Please remember to go and check Mirrors out on Steam Greenlight! Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Tell anyone! It’s much appreciated.

Rhys Willis
@rhyswilly

10 things I learned in my first year of full time game development

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Later this month will be the first anniversary of me being a full time game dev. Although I realised I wanted to go full time game dev around Christmas 2014, I didn’t actually start until May 2015 when I left my full time job and found myself knee deep in a world I knew nothing about.

Back then I felt that I entered full time game development knowing everything I needed to know to get started, what to do and when to do it, who to approach, how to make money. I had plenty of ideas. I started with and still have so much support. Unfortunately no matter how prepared I thought I was, over the last year I have learned so many valuable lessons.

So to celebrate my first year of being a game dev and to perhaps open the eyes of those considering going up this route, here is a list of the most important things I learned. Of course this list is only my opinion and I can only assume that every game dev journey is different.

 

1| Lower your expectations

Why not start with putting a mega dampener on things! I entered game dev with quite high expectations. I figured with my huge increase in time I could devote towards game development and with the help of the other devs, we would have games out in no time. That would then turn into cash and before you know it we would have a studio. The reality is so much different.

I feel like I have spent most of the last year filling in applications and attending meetings which in most cases don’t actually help towards the games, but more towards the business aspect of things. On top of all the extra time you now have, you also have a ton of extra responsibilities, both to yourself and anyone who is working with you.

Lower your expectations

 

2| Game Development is a marathon, not a sprint

This ties very much in with my first point about my expectations. I honestly thought that within the first 6 months we would be well on the way to releasing our first game. Although in the first 6 months we did get so much done, the truth is I was very naive to how much time it would actually take.

I think maybe if I didn’t sleep, eat, shower or take any sort of breaks in the first 6 months, Castaways may have been finished in that time, but I am really unsure of what the finished product would look like.

So in reflection, pace yourself. I 100% agree with setting targets but do not expect everything to be smooth sailing within your first 12 months, never within 6 months like I did.

 

3| Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket

We started with one idea – Castaways. As much as I am still 110% behind this idea, it is far too big a project for us to get out in the time frame that I wanted / anticipated. So a hard lesson I had to learn from one of the more experienced developers was to put your dream game somewhat on hold and constantly chase up alternate projects and ideas. Work on these in tandem with your big project and see what takes off.

It does sound like you’re making more work for yourself but it’s an eye opener when you finally start having ideas that seem way better than your original. Also on top of all this, if you are able to take on some paid work, take it. This could be your source of income for the next few years. This brings me onto…

 

4| Get something finished!

One thing where we somewhat failed for a long time was getting something finished and out into the world. We spent the first maybe six months working on nothing but Castaways. I don’t regret any of it, but as a result we still don’t have ‘that much’ to show for our first year. The only games we have finished to date are contracted, and although designed and developed by us, they are  not actually ‘ours’.

So my recommendation is, the first project you should be working on should be simple. Aim to get it out as soon as possible. Doesn’t matter if you make any money off it at all, as long as it is out as a portfolio piece and you can produce it at a moment’s notice to show it off. This will aid when it comes to potential clients who will see that you’re already producing work that is out on the market.

 

5| Ask for help

There are so many services available to people in our position. Personally I have found the Prince’s Trust and Business Gateway has been extremely helpful for me, but it obviously depends on a ton of variables such as your age, position and even location.

Your old universities or colleges will also be a font of information, ranging from the marketing departments, your IT / Game Design departments and even the careers advisers.

Help me!

 

6| 30 Minutes a day

At first, your motivation will be through the roof. But as times go on you will without fail go through times when you really can’t be bothered with developing. This is perfectly normal and expected.

I personally combat this trough by ensuring that each day I spend at least 30 minutes trying to do work. Actual work. Not staring at a screen or talking on Facebook. I find that if I spend 30 minutes proactively trying to do work, that 30 minutes will turn into an hour or even two.

If after 30 minutes you really can’t get anything done or your mind is elsewhere, then go have a break. It’s unlikely you will get any work done through forcing yourself and any that you do won’t be your best. You can try this two or three times a day, and it will definitely help you work through times of low motivation.

 

7| Set your own deadlines

One way in which I am personally able to push myself, is to set myself deadlines. It doesn’t matter so much if you meet the deadline, but it is important to at least try. You’ll find yourself getting more work done over a shorter course of time.

If you work with a team, it is also good to keep your team on the same deadlines. For instance, aiming to get a certain part of a game done before the end of the week. If everyone is working to that deadline, whether you meet it or not, you’re still making more progress than if you didn’t have the deadline in place.

Challenge yourself - set yourself deadlines.

 

8| Track your progress

At the end of each week or month, there will be times that you will think “I’ve done nothing this week, what a waste”. I found this to be extremely demotivating.  To counter this I began keeping a list of everything that I have completed, regardless of how small or big. Whether it is changes to a part of a game, a whole new feature implemented, a blog post written or even meeting attended.

You can do this any way you like but I personally keep it as Sticky Notes on my desktop. It allows me to update it easily and it is always in my face as a reminder of what I have done. It’s a real good motivational boost to look back at the month and see what you’ve done so far. It also acts a reminder that you are getting things done, even if it doesn’t feel that way.

 

9| Hope for the best – plan for the worst

One of the last bits of advice I can give is to hope for the best but always plan for the worst. Regardless of how big or small the decision, ensure that you always have a backup plan for that decision going wrong.

Of course at times it is necessary to take risks, but hope that these risks pay off, plan for if they don’t. By doing this you ensure that even if you don’t get the gigs you want or need, you’ll still be able to continue doing what you love until another opportunity comes along.

 

10| Decide what success means to you and chase it

A year into full time game dev and I am not filthy rich. I don’t have an office so I work from home. Most people in the game developer communities don’t know my name or what I do. Even less gamers know who I am.

I am a successful game developer.

I am doing what I love. I have the support of my girlfriend, family and friends. My bills are paid and I have enough work to get me through the rest of the year. We are on the verge of releasing multiple games and we’re in a position to be developing and releasing even more later in the year. I am in a really good position and I couldn’t be happier.

So what do you class as successful? Aim for that, work towards it and enjoy every minute. You might only have one chance in your life to do this, so make it worth every minute and don’t let anything hold you back.

I eat success for breakfast - with skimmed milk!

 

I hope this has been some sort of benefit to you. If you have enjoyed reading or found it beneficial, please share this post as there will most certainly be others who will enjoy the read or benefit from it too.

I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have so free to post them below or find me on twitter.

– Rhys

 

We are back!

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As you may have seen on twitter, over the past few months we have been extremely busy wrapping up projects and getting new projects off the ground. We’re now finally in a position to talk about such projects and let you know what we are currently working on and what the next few months hold for us.

 

Mirrors – Competitive Puzzle game for all platforms

Although we have made games for others under a contract basis, we are really excited to get some smaller games out of our own to show that we have the capabilities not only to develop games, but to come up with the ideas too!

Mirrors is a puzzle game which puts the player in a tomb with a number of mirrors, each mirror potentially having different behaviours. The player must rotate these mirrors to bounce a beam of light around the tomb until it hits an orb. Once the orb is hit by light, assuming all the mirrors have been used to reflect the light to the orb, the door to the next tomb will open.

We are implementing a variety of different modes to mirrors including a standard level by level mode, a time attack and even online competitive play. We are also in the process of developing a level creator so you can design your own tombs and share them with your friends!

We should have a free playable version of Mirrors available within the month, but of course we will announce this as it happens.

Current Title Screen for Mirrors

 

University of Aberdeen – Games for the Royal Society of Science

Since November 2015 we have been working with Game Dr. Limited and developing educational science games for the University of Aberdeen. We have completed the first and the second is currently in development. The second game is due to be finished for the end of June ready for the Royal Society of Science exhibition in London.

These games have been a great challenge as the main concern of both University of Aberdeen and Game Dr is to ensure these games are as scientifically accurate as possible. So while we focus on making the best game possible, we are also wary of how scientifically accurate it is – much different to what we are used to.

Both games will be available to play on July 5th. We will again announce this as it happens and can’t wait to get feedback.

Dexters Lab - as about as scientific as I get!

 

Two brand new unnamed projects

We have began planning what our next steps are over the coming months. We have 2 very great ideas which I don’t want to talk too much about currently, but the team and I are very excited about them both. You may have already seen some of the concept art and screenshots floating around on facebook and twitter, but we have so much to show and tell in the coming months. Once Mirrors is finally finished and released we will begin working on these, but we are holding off on starting as one of them has been put forward to the Tranzfuser developer programme…

Screenshot of Upcoming Game

 

Big opportunities with Tranzfuser

In April I put a team from Monocool forward to the Tranzfuser development programme, which in short is a good chance for a group of developers to potentially gain money to develop a game. With a bit of luck and hard work, we can take that game to the final and win even more money and support to fully market that game.

We will find out later this month whether we got through to the first round. Wish us luck!

Good Luck!

 

Asset Design and Development.

While we are developing games, it has become clear to us that we are also in a position to design and develop assets under a contract basis or with the intent to sell / give away through Unity Asset Store. We already have a few little projects underway which we aim to release these over the coming months.

 

On a final note, Game Dr has produced this awesome video titled ‘Antibiotic Apocalypse’. It would be amazing if you could check it out and leave some feedback. I have no doubt there will be more cool videos coming in the future!

As ever, thank you so much if you made it this far. Come follow me on twitter if you’d like to keep ‘more up to date’ with what’s going on and if you have any ideas or questions i’d love to hear them.

Oh and if you enjoyed this read, why not share this blog as others might too!

– Rhys